Western Conference Semifinals series vs Clippers
The Rockets advanced to face the LA Clippers during the Western Conference Semifinals, which was a matchup between the second seed and the third seed. Although the Rockets would take Game 1 at home, they found themselves down 3-1 heading into Game 5 at the Toyota Center, which was an elimination game.
The Rockets were able to extend the series, thanks to the trio of Harden, Howard, and Trevor Ariza, as they combined to score 68 of the Rockets’ 124 points. Although the Rockets were able to steal that game, it was clear that Game 6 was going to be even more difficult, as they were facing elimination on the road. The Clippers went 30-11 at the Staples Center during that season and it seemed like a foregone conclusion that they were going to finish off the Rockets.
The Rockets faced a 92-79 deficit heading into the fourth quarter, and James Harden went 1-for-7 in the third quarter and was 5-of-20 through three quarters. With a 13 point deficit and Harden struggling, how were the Rockets going to be able to extend their season? The answer was simple: J. Smoove.
Smith went 4-of-5 in the fourth quarter and scored 14 of the Rockets’ 40 points in the final period. This included making 75 percent of his 3-pointers, as Smith hit three triples as well. Smith was 1-of-4 heading into the fourth quarter, so his scoring outburst caught everyone off guard.
Smith and Corey Brewer scored 73 percent of the Rockets’ points in the final period, and Smith scored eight straight points in the fourth, as he was determined to help the Rockets live to see another day. Because of the success Smith and Brewer had off the bench, Rockets coach Kevin McHale opted to keep Harden on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, and the Rockets didn’t miss a beat, as Smith had 19 points and six rebounds.
All in all, the Rockets would end up winning 119-107 and extending the series to Game 7 in Houston. After having survived the early series scare and coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie it up 3-3, there was little doubt that the Rockets wouldn’t close the series out in Houston.
The Rockets clearly had the momentum, and in large part due to the spark Smith brought off the bench. In Game 7, Smith went 6-of-10 and scored 15 points, while also going 50 percent from behind the arc, as the Rockets defeated the Clips 113-100.
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